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Art as Artifact presents oil paintings by Dona Simons both before and after they were flooded by the levee breaches after Hurricane Katrina.

Dona Simons finds painting in the dreamlike settings of aquariums to be an inspired form of meditation. She has created paintings at aquariums in New Orleans and on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. After years of portraying brilliantly colored sea anemones and corals, she began including something else under the sea.

In her work, Simons’ passion for original Louisiana music began to find expression. In 2004 she completed a series of oil paintings titled “Louisiana Music Below Sea Level” presenting contemporary musicians performing in undersea settings. The underwater environment became her own visual metaphor for her city of New Orleans - well before Hurricane Katrina. Because of this series, an art critic at French newspaper Nice Matin later labeled her, “without doubt visionary.” In a sense the artwork foretold its own fate.

On August 30, 2005, the levee breaches after Hurricane Katrina flooded her artwork, her studio and her home. A lifetime of work sat in seven feet of water for three weeks.

In November 2008, she exhibited the flooded paintings, hanging from the studs in her gutted skeletal former home. The home and studio have since been demolished.

A selection of these paintings are presented in this catalog in the states both before and after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans musicians depicted in some of the paintings also lost homes to the flood.

Art as Artifact tells a visual story of Simons’ life and work. In addition to prescient aspects of the paintings’ subject matter, a story is told by the stains, tears and waterlines now on the canvases. The damage speaks of a specific catastrophic event in a specific time and place. It has added a dimension of historical significance: traumatic experience transformed into testament to history. The paintings have become collaborative works with Hurricane Katrina as the final artist.

Katrina now resides in history. Art as Artifact provides a glimpse into its effects as well as the world Dona Simons has created in her oil paintings.


About the Author

Dona Simons
dosimons New Orleans, Louisiana

Dona Simons has exhibited her oil paintings in museums and galleries in the U. S., Europe and the Caribbean, and is represented in public and private collections. A longtime New Orleans resident, Simons is included in catalogs, documentaries and publications such as “Who’s Who in American Art.” She has received grants from national and local arts foundations. Past artist residencies have taken her to California, New Mexico, and a castle in France.

Simons grew up in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania where she began oil painting at the age of six. After high school, she spent a year painting in Nice, France. Upon her return, Simons held her first solo exhibition on Newbury Street in Boston before studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Apparent in her paintings, Simons has a passion for Louisiana music and undersea landscapes. The world underwater has enchanted her since she first visited the Caribbean as a child. As an adult, she lived there for six years.

Publish Date  January 28, 2010

Dimensions  Small Square  40 pgs   Standard Paper

Category  Fine Art

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Comments (1) Write a comment


sueblakney says

Wow, what beautiful pictures of your paintings. I am thrilled you have documented the effects of the Katrina disaster to your artistic life's work with this marvelous book. I can't wait to hold it in my hands to view it all. The watery images before and after tell the tale, while reminding us of the disasters social impact on your life and everyone involved. Your paintings were nearly lost, but they will never be forgotten due to your driving creative energy to bring them a second life. Thank you for your courage to continue to bring good from your loss and new life to your creations.

posted at 03:36am Feb 16 PST


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